The era of ‘magic pudding’ marketing for the Kokoda Trail is over for PNG!
The concept was based on a delusional belief that there was an endless queue of Australians waiting and wanting to trek across the trail – as a result PNG never saw any urgency to develop a national marketing/management strategy.
Since then it has become a magnet for aid-funded consultants, advisors and officials pursuing social and environmental agendas unrelated to tourism, our shared wartime history, or the betterment of subsistence villagers.
Our submission to the PNG Government to proclaim ‘Kokoda Day’ as a National Day of Commemoration to honour the service of their wartime carriers in 2008 was amended by the National Executive Council to ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Day‘ – the reason, according to one MP at the meeting, was because a group of MPs from another Province thought ‘Kokoda’ was already getting too much attention!
12 years later we now know that eliminating ‘Kokoda’ from the proposal also eliminated the wartime tourism potential of the concept.
‘Kokoda Day’ could be a source of intense pride for all Papua New Guineans. It has the potential to emulate the commemorative status of Anzac Day in Australia. It will also provide a strong incentive for Australians to visit PNG for the commemoration and all it represents. But more importantly it provides a status of recognition for the Papua and New Guinea wartime carriers – the unsung heroes of the campaigns they supported throughout Papua and New Guinea.
The review of the Kokoda Trail for a World Heritage listing by the late Mr Peter Hitchcock, Dr Jennifer Gabriel and Dr Matthew Leavesley has exposed the myth of its relevance to our shared wartime heritage associated with the Kokoda campaign. The authors of the 2nd Joint Understanding should be called upon to explain why they were not aware of the review – or why they chose to ignore it.
The 2019 ‘Annual Review’ of the ‘Kokoda Initiative’ is largely irrelevant to the Kokoda trekking industry.
The review does not address the dysfunction of the management systems put in place by Port Moresby based Kokoda Initiative officials since they assumed control of the Kokoda Trail 2009 – and the lack of governance within their surrogate PNG organisation – the Kokoda Track Authority. This is evident in their failure to ever publish an annual financial report which is in breach of both Australian and PNG legal requirements.
The review also fails to address the issue of ‘commemoration’ which is evident in their ongoing refusal to engage an accredited Australian military heritage architect to develop a Master Heritage Interpretation Plan for the trail.